Card best New Mexico, keep playoff hope alive

Stanford (25-21) hosted the nation's top offense in New Mexico (33-18) this weekend at Sunken Diamond and, despite stranding 12 runners and falling 7-1 in the opener, managed to bounce back and pick up a critical series win.

Freshman Brett Mooneyham tossed a gem in the second game, and senior Max Fearnow did an excellent job in relief of junior Jeffrey Inman—who left with apparent injury after facing just one batter—on Sunday. Senior first baseman Brent Milleville had a career weekend for the Card, as the right handed slugger crushed three home runs over the final two games of the series, and piled up 11 RBI—including a career-high seven in a two-homer effort on Saturday.

Stanford now has just nine games to play, including six crucial Pac-10 games against USC and Oregon State, and needs to keep piling up the wins in order to have any chance of reaching the postseason. It will likely take series wins in each of the upcoming weekends—as well as two wins in the three remaining mid-week games—to gain a postseason berth, at a minimum. But at least the possibility of playoffs is still in play after this weekend – because it sure didn't look that way Friday night.

Friday: New Mexico 7, Stanford 1
The Card jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when senior center fielder Joey August lined a first-pitch homer over the wall in right in the first inning, but that would the only run Stanford got, despite chasing Lobos starter John Hesketh after just four innings. Stanford left 12 men on base and was shut out the rest of the way by Hesketh and reliever Will Kerr, allowed just three hits and no runs in the final five innings to pick up his first win of the season. August, senior first baseman Brent Milleville and sophomore catcher Zach Jones each had a pair of hits for Stanford—and the Card were never sent down in order in any inning—but the Lobos were able to get outs when they needed them.

New Mexico, on the other hand, was able to manufacture runs seemingly at will. The Lobos laid down four sacrifice bunts on the evening, and every base runner moved up by a sacrifice came around to score. Also, the New Mexico lineup was able to work in its intended order throughout the game, as the top of the order led off each of the first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth innings for the Lobos. Stanford's early lead lasted only a moment, as New Mexico gained a pair of runs in the second, one each in the third, fifth and seventh, and two more in the ninth to put the game well out of reach.

New Mexico recorded just a single extra-base hit—a double by second baseman Mike Brownstein—but used 10 hits to push across their seven runs, five against Cardinal starter freshman Jordan Pries and two on sophomore reliever Michael Marshall. Four different batters had multi-hit games for the Lobos, and catcher Rafael Neda finished 3-for-3 with a run and an RBI.

Pries lasted into the seventh inning, but allowed five runs—four earned—seven hits and three walks to fall to 3-3.

Saturday: Stanford 17, New Mexico 5
Stanford needed to bounce back in a big way, and Milleville provided all the spark the Cardinal would need. The right-handed slugger drove in a pair of runs with a solid single to left in the first to give Stanford an early 2-0 lead, and he took off from there. "A Milli" crushed a three-run homer in the third, and added a two-run shot in the seventh to complete a 3-for-4 day with a career-high seven RBI.

The rest of the Cardinal bats chipped in as well, as sophomore catcher Ben Clowe, junior right fielder Toby Gerhart, and senior outfielder Jeff Whitlow—who pinch-hit in the eighth—added home runs of their own. Sophomore shortstop Jake Schlander had a 3-for-4 day with a pair of doubles, three RBI and a stolen base, and sophomore catcher Zach Jones stole two more bases to run his team-leading season total to 16.

Meanwhile, freshman lefty Brett Mooneyham didn't need all 17 of the runs he got, as he breezed through 7.1 innings with eight strikeouts and no walks to pick his fifth win of the year. Mooneyham did allow five total runs—four on a pair of two-run homers by Neda and right fielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez in the fourth—but retired the first ten men he faced and was in complete control in every other inning. Sophomore Danny Sandbrink closed out the win by getting the final five outs and allowing just a single hit.

Lobos starter Rudy Jaramillo went just three innings and allowed nine runs to take the loss.

Sunday: Stanford 9, New Mexico 4
Milleville was the hero yet again, capping off a seven-run second inning for the Cardinal with his second grand slam home run of the week and third homer in two days. Stanford put up the seven second-inning runs after scoring a pair in the first on a Gerhart double, and chased the Lobos starter early for the second game in a row.

Ryan Escarcega managed to get just four outs before being pulled and allowed seven total runs to take the loss and fall to 1-2 for New Mexico. But Stanford had troubles with its starter as well. Junior Jeffrey Inman faced just one batter, and walked him, before being lifted for senior Max Fearnow. Inman had very little control in the five pitches he threw, and left the game with apparent discomfort in his pitching shoulder. No more information on his condition or availability for the rest of the season is available at this time.

However, Fearnow was excellent after coming in with no warning, and held the potent Lobo offense to just three runs (as well as allowing the inherited runner from Inman to score) over 5.2 innings to pick up the win in the longest outing of his career, after being handed the early 9-1 lead after just two innings. It was a good thing he was able to make it stand up, too, as Daniel Grubbs came out of the bullpen for New Mexico in the second and, after giving up Milleville grand slam and allowing a pair of runs in the second, shut down the Card the rest of the way.

But Fearnow worked into the sixth, and junior Brandt Walker and sophomore closer Drew Storen shut down New Mexico over the final 3.1 frames to complete the series victory.

Stanford enjoyed an off-day on Monday, and returns to action with a mid-week game at San Jose State on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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